Quiet Attention

“The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.” ~ Zen saying … 

Beyond the unimportant noise and mindless confusion of the world around us, and the unnecessary distractions of the thoughts in our head, there are things that are needed to be heard. Did you hear the fear in your child’s voice yesterday, there behind the words they uttered so softly and tenderly? And when you spoke with your spouse last night, did you hear the uncertainty in the words that, at the time, sounded so strong? Do you hear what God is asking of you today? There is so much to be heard–the wind rustling through the trees, the rain splashing off the roof and pavement, the beauty of an orchestra–and so much that requires our attention, but is we ourselves who must actively choose to listen. <!–more–> 

How often do I use my eyes and ears to the best of their ability each day? In considering this question honestly, the answer seems to be “not often enough.” Many times, I fail to hear what others have to say, because I want to speak myself, or have a thought in my head that I want to get out, and so I dismiss their words or fail to notice their sounds, expressions, words, tones, and hesitations. However, life is not about making as much noise as possible or always contributing with our voice to all that goes on. It is about having patience; it is about hearing truly, madly, deeply, and fully, and allowing our lives–and the lives of those around us–to grow richer and more meaningful as a result of what we hear.

Slow down. Quiet your mind. There in the stillness and silence, over the sound of your voice and the millions of thoughts you allow to occupy and control your mind, there is peace to be felt, and amazing and important sounds to hear. Be satisfied in listening to the stories and thoughts of others without contributing to them. Hear to the laughter of children, and listen to the nuances in the voices of those around you–the fear and worry, the pain and loneliness, the joy and enthusiasm, the hope and love. Life is speaking… are you listening?

Make an effort to listen quietly to what the world around you is saying.

Questions to consider:

What is the main point of making noise all the time? Is it an effective strategy or an ineffective compensatory technique?

Why do we so rarely learn the value of quiet–of enjoying quiet and of being quiet ourselves?

How much do we really hear when we talk with others? What interferes with our hearing?

For further thought:

“There is a silence that matches our best possibilities when we have learned to listen to others. We can master the art of being quiet in order to be able to hear clearly what others are saying…. We need to cut off the garbled static of our own preoccupations to give to people who want our quiet attention.” ~ Eugene Kennedy

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